Nearly a thousand New Zealanders have signed a petition calling for an end to anti-abortion protests outside Thames Hospital, after increasing intimidation of women accessing services there.

The Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ) has submitted a petition to Thames Coromandel District Council, the Police and Waikato District Health Board.

“We’re asking the Council to withdraw permits for Voice for Life, and for ALRANZ too – because we believe that’s only fair,” ALRANZ President Terry Bellamak says.

“Alternatively, we’ve asked for the permitted days to be changed to any day but Friday, which is the only day of the week abortion services are offered at Thames Hospital.

“This would allow protesters their full rights to express their opinion, while allowing patients their rights to be left alone on the street, and access health services without distress and intimidation.”

Voice for Life has staged protests outside the hospital for many years, and the Council permits them to do so as long as they are peaceful and do not intrude on passers-by.

But ALRANZ believes that line has been crossed, with video being released of a Voice for Life protester behaving aggressively towards a pro-choice protester.

Thames Coromandel District Council has so far refused to withdraw Voice for Life’s permit.

“We believe the local community in Thames supports our position, and wants an end to the protests,” Ms Bellamak says.

“Voice for Life are intimidating not only women accessing abortion services, but others attending the hospital, who may have had abortions in the past.

“We hope the Council will consider this option carefully – and whatever its decision, explain it to New Zealanders.”